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Have a cleaner Christmas by reusing or recycling holiday trash

Stay sustainable this holiday season

A basket of trash sitting in front of a Christmas tree Credit: Getty Images / SKatzenberger

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Christmas is a magical time of year for family, generosity, and … trash. Big piles of it. Every December 26th, garbage cans across the country are filled with refuse that might otherwise have been recycled or repurposed.

So, before you fill up your trash bags this year, consider these tips on how to give a present to our planet.

Recycle wrapping paper, ribbons, and all those boxes

A pile of discarded gift wrapping and ribbon.
Credit: Getty Images / nicolamargaret

Most wrapping paper can be recycled, and even leaving a little tape on there is OK.

We'll start with the most obvious Christmas detritus: wrapping paper, ribbons, and boxes.

Most wrapping paper can be recycled, and even leaving a little tape on there is OK. Just be sure to put paper with glitter, velvet flocking, or metal in the regular trash.

Bows, ribbons, and gift bags, in most instances, are perfect items to salvage and reuse for future gifts. My own home has two big glass jars full of ribbons that we routinely borrow from, so we haven't had to buy new ones for years.

Cardboard boxes are perfect for the recycling bin. Just break them down flat and remove any excess tape. (Single strips of tape are fine to leave on.)

Repurpose outdated tech

Paper and ribbons aren't the only thing that end up curbside after Christmas. When you receive a new and upgraded gadget, the tendency is to simply toss the old one. But, before you do, consider that it could have a second life.

First, you'll want to clean up your old device, removing unnecessary software and sensitive personal information. After that, it's just a matter of finding a problem that needs solving in your house.

An old computer can be used as a Wi-Fi hotpot or signal repeater. An aging iPad might be perfect as a second monitor or a backseat entertainment device for the kids.

Outdated smartphones can be repurposed as a portable entertainment center, a children's camera, or something as simple as an emergency backup phone.

Sell or donate your old tech

Selling your device is another way to avoid the trash heap. The buyback price depreciates pretty quickly after just one year from a product's initial release, but you'll end up with at least some money in your pocket. Decluttr is a reliable choice for selling old devices like phones, laptops, and tablets.

And, if you originally made the purchase from Amazon or Apple, you may get some trade-in value for your product.

Many deserving not-for-profit organizations can also benefit from your old tech. In my experience, there's no single group that will pick up every type of item from your home, and there may be some research and legwork involved on your end. But, charity, as they say, is its own reward, so go earn yours.

Safely dispose of electronics

Person holding a box of electronics to be recycled.
Credit: Getty Images / Estradaanton

If you do need to throw out old tech devices, please don't simply drop them in the regular trash barrels.

If you do need to throw out old tech devices, please don't simply drop them in regular trash barrels. Electronic waste, or e-waste, can end up creating some horrible conditions in other parts of the world that are decidedly not in the spirit of Christmas.

Fortunately, there are free, easy-to-use resources that can help you figure out how to responsibly dispose of [personal electronics and batteries, appliances, and, even, Christmas lights.

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